As time passes, it is seeming more and more likely that Steve Jobs most recent medical leave could be his last. If he does come back the next time he takes a leave it will be to retire. That said there have been multiple reports in the past week stating that doctors only give Steve six weeks to live. Meaning the upcoming Macbook updates and possibly the iPad two could be the final things he gets the last say on. With that in mind I am going to run down the list of rumors from the Macbook updates all the way down the list. I will even cover the multiple patent rumors that have been flying around involving apple.
The biggest rumor surrounding the laptop line of computers from Apple is that they will gain light-peak technology later this week or early next week. Other big rumors are that the 13-inch line will adopt the MacBook Air design across the board with the Pro line getting Intel’s Sandy Bridge processors and Liquid Metal casing. It is also being rumored that the Pros will get an OS-only SSD drive and a bigger trackpad.
My take on each of these things is as follows. Light Peak, while it seems to be a likely upgrade to some, probably won’t happen just yet because of the cost behind Light Peak. Liquid Metal casing, again, I do not see this as being very likely because of cost. In my eyes, I can see the entire MacBook / Pro line getting rid of the optical drives and going entirely flash based for storage as well as getting Sandy Bridge and a bigger trackpad. With Thursday being Steve Jobs fifty-sixth birthday I would not doubt that will be when thes new Macbook Pros drop especially considering this may be his last chance to celebrate a big announcement.
There is one thing not being discussed at all is the idea that the 13-inch MacBook Air will be completely rebranded as the MacBook. Of course why would Apple do this so soon after introducing the second generation Airs? They wouldn’t. But I can see a day, within the next few years, where we have three MacBook Air models all of the 11-inch form factor where the low end is $799, with a mid-ranged model at $899, and a high-end model at $999 with the 13-inch MacBook being priced at $1099.
What does Apple have in store for the fall iPod Event?
At the annual iPod event in September Apple is going to announce a number of surprises. None of these will be an iPad 3. First they are going to announce an iPad Nano with a 7 inch screen, It will have the same hardware as the 10 inch model just a smaller screen. Next they will announce an that unsubsidized iPhones are $199, $299, and $399. What that will do is allow customers to purchase the phone directly from them and use it as an iPod Touch or an iPhone leaving the carries in the dust and killing the iPod Touch. Finally, and definitely not least they will announce an Apple branded television set. More on all of these items below.
The hot rumor the last few days, where it comes to iOS, is that if there is a 6-inch or 7-inch iOS device in the works it will not be an iPad Nano or and iPod Touch XL but an e-reader for use strictly with Apple’s own Apps, namely iBooks but probably also Safari and Mail. I am not so sure about this one. The rumored name of this locked down device is the iReader. I would have to say that the likelihood of Apple not allowing Apps on this 6-to-7 inch device is very slim because that just eliminates more money that they would be able to get from the App store.
iPhone and iPod Touch
The leading iPhone rumor out there right now is that Apple is going to be selling and unsubsidized $200 iPhone Nano. Simply put, I do not see this happening. Let me clarify though. I do think that they will sell an unsubsidized $200 3G based iOS device, it will not called the iPhone Nano though. What they are going to do is discontinue the iPod Touch and sell the iPhone 4 (as weel as in future generations, the last gen iPhone model) at the $199 and $299 price tags. These devices will also be sold by carriers at subsidized prices of $99 and $199 with the purchase of 2-year phone contract. Then, in order to keep up with the Android competition, Apple give the iPhone 5 a bigger (probablly, 4.3-inch) screen. What this will do is allow the data hounds who use their iPhone for data only to own iPhones with no voice contract and have the same cameras and other general hardware that is in the subsidized iPhones.
There is also a good amount of talk right now about apple possibly designing an iPhone Pro that has a slide out keyboard. I could see them doing such a thing but I am not so sure they are ready to do this just yet. I am going to place my bets on this happining in 2012, not 2011.
iPad 2, iPad 3, and iPad Nano
I would not be so sure that there will be an iPad 3 in 2011 because now the hot rumor is that the iPad 2 has been delayed until June. Update (12:30p): according to multiple sources Apple will be holding an event to announce the iPad 2 next Wednesday March the 2nd. That said, I could see Apple releasing another iPad line called the iPad Nano later in the year. The iPad as we know it right now is better fit as a Wi-Fi based coffee table computer. A smaller form factor, say 7-inch iPad, would be better fit as a ‘3G’ based product. I am saying that what will happen is, the Macbook Air and iPad in the words of Steve Jobs, will “hook up,” and in turn we will end up with a Macbook Air with a removable 11.7 inch screen and a 6 or 7 inch iPad Nano. This will not all happen this year. Probably not even next year. But I could definitely see this happening sometime in the next five years. When it does happen the iPad will still exist as an 11.7 inch display and it will be Wi-Fi only. More over, the iPad 3 will not be announced in the fall because Apple does not want to cannibalize the sales of the iPad 2 just to keep up with the Android competition. That said, I still think they could announce an iPad Nano in the fall.
I could also see the iPad Nano being the cross, many people have been waiting on, between the iPad and the iPhone. In other words, the Nano would support phone calls and be offered as a 3G only device. Of course who is going to want to hold a 6-or-7-inch device to their ear, but that doesn’t mean that the device can’t be connected to (sold with) a bluetooth device, such as a earpiece/headset or handset-shell for making calls. Finally, while I did say that the iPad as we know it is an excellent Wi-Fi based coffee table computer I do think Apple is going to eventually go to a single model for all of their devices that includes both Wi-Fi technology and the option to connect to mobile data.
Apple iOS product line would look something like this if all the pieces fell into place as I am suggesting:
$39 iPod Nano 4GB$59 iPod Nano 16GB
$79 iPod Nano 32GB
$99 iPod Classic 256GB (Flash based, fully touch screen)
$99 Subsidized Last Generation iPhone 16GB
$199 Unsubsidized Last Generation iPhone 16GB
$199 Subsidized 32GB Current Generation iPhone
$299 Unsubsidized Current Generation iPhone 32GB
$299 Subsidized 64GB Current Generation iPhone
$299 Last Generation 32GB iPad Nano/Mini (once there is a last gen)
$399 Unsubsidized Current Generation iPhone 64GB
$399 Current Gen 32GB iPad Nano/Mini (whatever they call it)
$399 Last Generation 64GB iPad
$499 Current Generation 64GB iPad
$599 Current Generation 128GB iPad
And eventually their laptop line will look like this:
$799 MacBook Air 64GB
$899 MacBook Air 128GB
$999 MacBook Air 256GB
All MacBook Airs are 11-inch form factor
$1099 MacBook 13-inch 256GB
$1299 MacBook Pro 13-inch 256GB
$1499 MacBook Pro 13-inch 512GB
$1799 MacBook Pro 15-inch 512GB
$1999 MacBook Pro 17-inch 512GB
All of the MacBook Pros would obviously get increasingly better processors as well. Likely there would be
only one thirteen and three fifteens but that is hard to predict and my point is made either way.
Notice the only price point I have skipped over in this is the $699 price point that of the Mac Mini. This was not an accident. I could see the Mac Mini becoming an option based device once Apple has actual branded TV sets. In other words, at the $699 price point you can get a low end MacBook Pro sans the screen or an iOS based set top box running the latest iOS hardware.
From September 2009 to September 2010 I was a MobileMe subscriber. Aside from the fact that I could not afford $99 I did not see any real reason to pay for another year. To that point, I had never lost my iPhone or iPad (which I had only purchase a month earlier), had no real use for the MobileMe iDisk (I have been a proud user of DropBox since its early days, I was a beta tester before they opened to the public in September 2008), and finally, I, really, did not need a 15th email account to keep track of. Shortly after I decided to get rid of my MobileMe subscription Apple made the one feature of MobileMe that tempted me to keep it, free. That feature of course is Find My iPhone. Now there are a lot of rumors flying that Apple is about to add an entirely free option for the service and implement a lot of social networking aspects with it.
I have to say that I am not so sure Apple will do much of anything in the Social Arena with MobileMe. What will happen is Apple will make MobileMe free for all users and charge strictly for MobileMe Email. MobileMe will become the cloud based syncing that everyone has been waiting for, eliminating the need to constantly have to backup our devices to a computer.
A Changing Tune For Apple
Apple appears to be working on SIM card technology, as discussed in this article from The Unofficial Apple Weblog. The overall idea makes a lot of sense when you think about it. The only problem with it is that it would require the user to have contracts with multiple carriers for it to actually work. In order for the to happen, carriers would have to really lower their prices. Also, something I am unclear about with this technology is: if I am on a call and my phone needs to switch networks will my call drop or will it switch me to another network flawlessly? Other than those two things I can not see any reason why this technology would be a bad idea. The plus side of this SIM card technology is that when you think about it, one could use this technology to further advance the capabilities of AirPlay the wireless sharing technology Apple introduced back in September when the revamped the Apple TV. Oh the possibilities.
There are a number of reports floating around the web stating that Apple is developing technology that would allow the transfer of data over their MagSafe Adapter technology. I am not exactly sure how this would be useful but I guess anything is possible. We will have to just wait and see.
In the two years since I started using the first generation iPod touch my one biggest issue with iOS has been the pop-up notifications, they are truly the most annoying thing I have ever dealt with while doing any computing task in my life. Even more annoying than those pop-up advertisements that slowed me down when I was still on a dial up Internet connection. Word on the street is that Apple is about to revamp the notifications system in iOS. This would be a very welcome user interface update that, I, for one, have always always given kudos to Android since Google introduced it in October of 2008.
The other major thing that has bothered me about iOS, especially on my iPad is that the bezel areas, top and bottom on the iPhone and the outer rim on the iPad are one hundred percent USELESS. According to another article from The Unofficial Apple Weblog, found here, Apple is working on making the bezel a “smart” bezel, allowing the user to use that area to navigate their device. That, like the notifications systems update that I mentioned above would be a much welcomed update.
No doubt something that hardware manufactures are constantly working on is battery technology for mobile devices. It appears that Apple has been rewarded a patent, according to this article from Engadget, for battery technology that will allow users to get exceptionally more battery life out of their devices due to a change in the way the batteries are built. This is not to say that batteries will get smaller only to say that because of the way they are engineered they will last a lot longer, double if not triple or more time than they do currently.